Daniel: He’s British. He’s addicted to waving his long stick around. He has a superb sweater collection.

Me: Is this some kind of late-night book trivia?

Heart putters and butterflies were back in full force.

Daniel: Duh.

Me: Well, you have to do better than that. Harry Potter. My turn. He ran away from home to miss out on a curse. He gets married. He has mom issues. There may be a small chance that his baby mama is also…his mama.

Daniel: Did you just Oedipus Rex me? Clue: She has a rodent problem. Her infatuation with the three days festival is awkward. Her stepsisters cut off their heels.

Me: Cinderella—Grimm brother style. You’re making this too easy. I thought you weren’t going to call me first?

Daniel: I thought the three days festival was clever. Most people don’t know that. This isn’t calling you. This is texting. My girlfriend is sleeping right next to me. She might wonder if she hears me talking. You’re beautiful.

He made me laugh and swoon at the same time. A true talent.

Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, the festival clue was a 1.5. Yawn. Don’t pretend that Mr. Hideous has a girlfriend. Don’t flatter me with compliments—your clues still stink.

Daniel: You’re beautiful.

Me: You’re dramatic.

Daniel: You’re beautiful, Ashlyn. I don’t just mean your looks. I mean your smarts, your tears, your brokenness. I think that’s beautiful.

Each time he replied, I felt my face flush. He wasn’t playing games; he wasn’t trying to act like he had better things to do at two in the morning. He replied right away, with each text holding so much warmth to his simple words.

Me: Stop it…

Daniel: You’re so ugly it’s painful. You remind me of the scum on the bottom of my shoes. If I could, I would kick you with dirt. Why are you so repulsive?

Me: Romancing—you’re doing it right.

Daniel: Goodnight, Ash.

I sighed as I placed my phone down against my chest.

Goodnight, Daniel Daniels.

I moved to my wooden box and used the light from my cell phone to dig through the envelopes until I found number twenty-three. Sitting back on my mat, I slowly opened the letter.

#23. Kiss a Stranger


Oh my gosh. My sister’s a slut! Really? You kissed a STRANGER?! Can I say that I’m secretly proud of you? And if this happened to be one of the first few letters that you opened, that means you’re probably acting out because you miss me sooo much. That’s my girl! So tell me, was it a bad kiss? Did he have donkey breath? Did he use tongue? Oh gosh, there’s so much I want to know. Did you like it? Did he make your insides feel like Jell-o? As long as you’re not kissing Billy, I’m happy. I guess this number on your bucket list was mainly to show you that you should take chances. Kiss the wrong guy at the right time. Kiss the right guy at the wrong time. Just live each day as if there are no restraints. There’s so much I wish I would have done, but I would always overthink things too much. Like, I should have worn polka dots with plaid one day. Or tried sushi. Or lost my virginity at the beach party with Bentley last year when I really wanted to.

Keep diving in.

You’re doing great, kid.


Chapter 7

One, can I have your number?

Two, can I have your smile?

Three, will you meet me somewhere?

Four, will you stay awhile?

~ Romeo’s Quest

I woke up on the ground as the sunlight from the window flooded the carpet. I looked down to see that the cover I had laid on Hailey was now resting against me. Hailey was standing in front of her full-length mirror, tossing her hair around.

I rubbed my hands over my sleepy eyes and stood up, yawning into the palm of my hand. “Thanks for the blanket.”

“Ditto,” she smiled, turning my way. “This roommate thing is working out. Right?”

My shoulders shrugged as I fell onto my mattress. I hadn’t lived here that long, so it was all still so new to me.

She didn’t really take my reply in too much before joining me on the edge of my bed. “Great! So, here’s the thing… Theo’s having a party in a few weeks when his parents go to Bora Bora and I need you to come with me.”

I arched an eyebrow and laughed. “No thanks.”

Hailey pouted her lips and crossed her arms. “Come on. Please?! My mom won’t let me go unless I go with friends. My best friend Lia is against Theo for some reason, and seeing how my only other friend is my brother, who is very anti-Theo, Mom is very anti my going out. I need a girl to go with me… I need you. And Mom will love the idea because she’ll think we’re bonding. Which, we will be!” She clamped her hands together and started to beg. “Please, Ashlyn?! Please?!”

“I’m not really the party girl.”

“That’s fine! It’s totally fine. But”—she smiled and shut her eyes—“maybe you’ll be able to cross something off of your bucket list!”

My mouth dropped and I straightened my shoulders back. “How do you know about the list?”

“You talk in your sleep.” She opened one of her eyes and looked at me, cringing at the idea that I would be pissed off at her. I was still debating if I was. “Plus, you left your last letter resting on your bed.”

Jumping from my bed, my heart pounding against my chest, I crossed my arms. “You read my letter?! You went through my stuff?!”

Hailey was quick to stand up and widen her eyes with fear. “No! It was just sitting there. And I’m… Okay. Yes, I read the letter. I’m a terrible roommate. Let me make it up to you by inviting you to a party!”